It’s Cohen, Cohen, gone
July 7, 2006
Besides my utter disinclination to ever throw my hat into the political ring, I never really had a prayer of making it as a government official because, unlike Bush (Sr. and Jr.), Clinton (Bill and Hillary), Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Dan Quayle, very little fun can be made of my name.However, new hope of becoming an elected official has risen now that my days as a Cohen are numbered at just over 60. I’m not dying or being ex-communicated from my family – I’m getting married.My soon-to-be new last name isn’t one with an incredible amount of morphing options, but it still has a few more punny headline possibilities than, “What’s Cohen on?”My new surname will also move me up in the alphabetical universe. The shift is admittedly minor – from Co to Ca – but imagine the shock if I were marrying someone at the other end of the alphabet. I’m not sure I could lower myself to the M-Z line at registration tables after spending over 30 years queuing in front of A-L.Certainly it won’t be all fun, PAC games and ABC seniority with my new name. First, there’s the hassle of the legal change.I always thought changing my address was a pain. As it turns out, changing a name comes with all the headaches of an address change plus a few more government agencies. I’d now gladly send forwarding instructions to the post office and all the magazines to which I subscribe in lieu of getting new credit cards, a new passport, driver’s license, library card, health insurance cards and trying to decipher the name-changing instructions on the Social Security Administration’s Web site.Then there’s the inevitable disapproval from some of my college professors. As a Women’s Studies minor, I can almost hear the shudders and tsks of the Birkenstock-wearing, waist-length haired PhDs now if they heard that one of their former students has become so oppressed she’s giving in to traditional masculine societal pressures and shedding her warrior identity. (Of course, I gagged a little when I read Anne E. Kornblut’s piece in last Sunday’s Week in Review section of The New York Times and she asked, “… Should a woman risk changing her name?” After all, isn’t it now a truth universally acknowledged that freedom of choice is one of the advantages of being a liberated woman?)As Cohen prepares to move up to my middle name, I’m also a little nostalgic about relegating the middle name I’ve had since birth to a trivia question (“Guess what my middle name used to be?”).There’s a bit of guilt surrounding my name change, too. My sister and cousin changed to their husbands’ last names when they got married, leaving my parents, my aunt, uncle and me as the last Cohens in our family. And since I’m not a boy (sorry about that, again, Dad), it was in me that the final glimmer of hope remained that our family name would survive. At least I have the comfort of knowing that a seemingly endless supply of Cohens roam the planet – a “Cohen” Google search turns up 161,000,000 results. Maybe one of them will consider letting us swing from a branch on their family tree.I suppose if my guilt was overwhelming, I could always go with the hyphenation route, but few things are more annoying than a hyphenated last name (Jolie-Pitt, anyone?). Someone will always screw up where it belongs when alphabetizing (although since I would have a double C name, the mistake would probably never be that far off). When filling out automated forms, there’d never be enough space to complete the spelling of the two-name last name. Plus, how would the decision be made as to whose last name goes first? And then what if we have a daughter and she marries and decides to hyphenate? She’ll have a three-part last name? I feel a responsibility to put an end to the last name madness.What matters most to me, though, is sharing a name with my future husband and starting our own family identity. But let’s also be honest – if I were marrying someone with an awful last name (no need to give examples of a horrible surname – you know if you have one), I might think twice about changing my name. Or, if I already had a dreadful last name and married someone with one even remotely better, the decision would be automatic.And if changing my last name means I’ll now have the freedom to run for president and have news organizations everywhere twist my name in order to make cringe-worthy wisecracks, well, then, sign me up.While she still uses this address, e-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.